Joe R. Lansdale is a man who needs no introduction. That said, I consider the man’s works to be nothing short of stunning, and well, I like to praise those who have influenced my own work: so Joe gets an introduction!
Despite the fact that the term “Master of Horror” is thrown about quite liberally these days, there are a select handful of genre contributors who are legitimately deserving of such a title, and Mr. Lansdale is one of those select individuals. His fiction can (and should) be labeled groundbreaking, as he has no fear of treading uncharted waters, and he’s happy to snatch the oncoming shark by the jowls and tear its head clean apart.
Joe R. Lansdale’s works are the works of an inhibition free visionary. His willingness to open up indicates that he’s well aware that the fans are a significant piece of the puzzle known as success. He hasn’t forgotten who helped to ensure his genius has been recognized on a wide scale: the fans. Getting the opportunity to throw a handful of questions at the man was an honor, and it’s an honor to share our conversation with you.
Matt Molgaard: You have a tendency to craft some far out, complex and creative ideas. Is it natural for you to approach writing from an unorthodox stance, or is that quality something you’ve really labored (it certainly seems natural) to establish?
Joe R. Lansdale: All manner of stories come to me, and some are more traditional. I think the far out ones are pretty natural, however, and I think it’s due to all of my childhood influences. Books, films, TV, comics, art, you name it. I always wanted to express all of those feelings, so I’ve tried in the stories. Early on I tried very hard to be conventional, to figure out how that worked, but then I realized it was better to follow my own emotions. Strangely, the more traditional method followed on the heels of that. I like to work back and forth between these different approaches. I do what excites me.
MM: Expanding on that question, I’m very curious, are there specific instances or influences that have inspired you and helped to develop such a unique imagination?
JRL: Well, Edgar Rice Burroughs early on, and then there was Poe, Wells, Vern, Twain and Jack London and Kipling, a little later, Matheson, Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown. Flannery O’Conner, Carson McCuller, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are so many. Movies: Universal films, Roger Corman films, all manner of low budget film, drive in movies of the cheapest variety, TV shows, and even some radio shows and music and art. Certainly comics. I think in some ways they have been, at least as far as mixing ideas, one of my largest influences.
MM: Some of your work feels very vintage to me, almost as though you sometimes write with a nod to some classic material. Is that a conscious maneuver, or is that simply my interpretation?
JRL: You’re right. I grew up on all that stuff, so besides the outlandishness that probably came out of sixties influences, I grew up and adore the classic approach to story. In longer work I especially enjoy that. I do my most outlandish work in the shorter form, though there have certainly been a few novels that had the same absurdist feel as the stories. They are calling that Bizarro fiction now, but some of us have been doing it for a long time, and there were those before us who did it. I have a great passion for pure storytelling, even though I often attach it to outlandish ideas. I love the novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by the way, and it’s my favorite novel.
MM: You’ve written so many stories that I think it should be a very difficult challenge to pick a single favorite, but I can personally say that I cherish Bubba Ho-Tep on a completely different level: that’s my number one pick from you, without a doubt. Are you personally able to pick one of your own single tales, whether short, or novel, as a favorite?
JRL: Bubba is a favorite of mine, but I believe “Night They Missed The Horror Show” is my all out favorite. It changed my life and career, and continues to be republished, and recently appeared as one of the stories in GREATEST HORROR STORIES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
MM: While I’ve got Bubba Ho-Tep on my mind, I’ve got to ask: what did you think of Don Coscarelli’s film?
JRL: Loved it. Thought he did a wonderful job, as did the actors. Don adapted my story very well.
MM: I know that Don has plans to move forward with a sequel/prequel to the film, Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but you haven’t actually written that specific story, have you?
JRL: I don’t believe that’s in the mill anymore, but I could be wrong. I have not written a sequel to the novella.
MM: What’s your take on the proposed prequel? Is that something you support, or do you feel it may be unnecessary?
JRL: I think it’s unnecessary. I’m not a big fan of the idea, though if it was done, I’d prefer I be involved. But I think that ship has sailed, and probably should have.
MM: Switching gears a bit, I’ve got to say that the Drive-In books are a few personal favorites of mine. Will we see another Drive-In installment in the future?
JRL: I think the three volumes are it, though now and again something nudges me about that universe. I thought it might be fun to do an anthology with a variety of writers doing Drive In stories. Things that happened in the three that we don’t see in the novels. Get a number of writers to write stories in that vein.
MM: Your writing style seems like a perfect fit for graphic novels and comic books, so it doesn’t surprise me that you’re well versed in that area of literary work as well. How different, for you, is it writing a comic book versus a short story, or a longer piece of fiction? Furthermore, do you have a clear preference?
JRL: I prefer fiction to comics, but comics were my earliest influences and have remained a major influence on how I think and write. I love comics. They taught me early on about mixing genres. It takes me a day or so to sort of get in the comic script state of mine, and then once I do a few pages, it starts to click. Same for screenplays. I used to have that switching from short stories to novels, but now I do so many stories right along with novels that switch in thinking comes easy now. Short stories are my favorite form of writing.
MM: I’m curious as to what authors you’re reading (when time permits) these days? Are there many young talents out there that you’ve taken a liking to?
JRL: I am reading Trent Zelazny for one. And others. I don’t have any one new writer I’m reading religiously. He’s not so new now, but Stephen Graham Jones is pretty amazing. I seem to be rereading a lot of older writers, and have been for awhile. It’s fun revisiting some of them, and in some cases, reading some of their work for the first time, or some of their work I’ve missed.
Hemingway, Steinbeck—big fan. But I’m reading some of the older crime writers, as well. I’ve read them before, but I’m enjoying rereading them. Same with S.F. writers I’ve read in the past, like John Wyndham. I’ve always liked his work, and am reading some of it I’ve missed. I’ll switch soon, start reading totally different material. I read a lot of literary writers, but tend to read one good book here and there. Most of what I’ve read in that field lately hasn’t moved me much. I really loved Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Best book of his I’ve read in a while, and one of his overall best. A great novel.
MM: As I understand it your story Savage Season will receive screen adaptation sometime in the near future. Do you have any insight as to when we may see that come to fruition, or for that matter details as to who may be attached to direct the project?
JRL: Well, it’s optioned, but I think it’s more likely to be part and parcel of a TV deal, if that happens. It’s always an up in the air sort of thing. It happens when it happens.
MM: I know this question is a bit off the beaten path, but if my knowledge serves correct, you’re a seasoned martial artist. Martial arts have become quite prominent these days with mixed martial arts beginning to receive serious attention. In addition to covering film and literature, I’ve also worked in the MMA field for over a half decade, and I’d really like to know how you feel about mixed martial arts. Is the UFC (and other organizations) something you’re a fan of?
JRL: You know, I burned out on MMA early on. And frankly, it’s not really new as an idea, only as a successful sport. We used to do that when I was younger, mix martial arts, do it all, but we didn’t get paid. We went at it hammer and tongs and learned a lot from it, but the way the fighters conduct themselves, the way its presented, reminds me too much of Professional Wrestling. Also, martial arts at its best stresses a philosophy and it’s something you can do when your young, as well as older, only in a different manner.
MM: Before I let you go, I know you released Edge of Dark Water earlier this year. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to get my hands on the book just yet. What kind of story am I in store for; can you give me a brief breakdown of the overall plot?
JRL: Some friends decide to take their murdered friend’s body out of the grave, cremate it, and haul it down river in East Texas to a bus stop so they can then carry it to Hollywood. This is because the murdered girl wanted to be an actress. But there’s also money involved, and a very strange assassin, and some never do wells that make it a less than easy journey.
A huge thanks goes out to Joe, who made my day, and likely, a whole lot of yours as well! Get your copy of Edge of Dark Water NOW!